After just a few months of writers workshop you can see how far my kindergarteners have come. This post will explain conferring in writers workshop and give you tips to make it go smoothly!
Narrative Writing: Making Books
We have just completed our second unit in our Writing Through the Years unit on narrative writing. I grabbed a few samples on my way out of my classroom door this evening and I am excited to share them with you. (I am not sure why my scanner put a red line through these images… technology fail.)
|We talked about creating a cover that grabs the reader’s attention… Love the roller coaster!|
|Great details in her writing!|
|I am excited that her story clearly has a beginning, middle, and end. She also included her favorite parts!|
|This writing is from a different writer.
|We also talked about keeping our titles short! Atta girl!|
|She told about the various things she did there!|
|Little Miss A included her favorite part!|
Here are some of the anchor charts that we are using to guide our thinking.
By studying the work of other authors, we can learn the qualities of good writing.
We used this chart all unit long to help with our spelling independence.
Because we launched writing books this month, this was a chart that was essential. This helped remind students to go back and check their writing… not a simple task when you are 5 and 6 years old.
Now for the conferring… deep breath… doesn’t this seem like the hardest part?
MY STRUGGLE: I sit down to confer with a student and I get overwhelmed. I know I need to get to 4 students in a 20 minute period, but I am not sure where to begin with my little writer. I listen to them read their story and my mind is racing with various teaching ideas and I’m distracted by the chatter that is happening at the table next to me. When the child is done reading their piece… I mumble… good job and wander away. What a waste of time! SO…
I started this system towards the end of last year and it helped tremendously.
- I have 20 students and I need to meet with EACH of them once a week.
- Every student is at a different place in their writing development. (SEE the free Continuum at the end of this blog post.) Therefore, I need to have a clear idea of what my students’ next steps are. There is no point in expecting a beginning runner to run a marathon the next week. Same with emergent writers.
Here is the outline of the system.
Let’s assume it is Monday
On Monday, Matt, Caleb, Suzi, and Lidia will hand in their folder when writers workshop is over. They will just put it on my desk and we move on to the next subject of the day. During my prep (ha! I mean after school), I look over those 4 students body of work in their writing folder. I think about where they are on the writing continuum and I think about their next steps.
Now it is Tuesday
I have finished my writing mini-lesson and excused my students to go write. NOW Matt, Caleb, Suzi, and Lidia will stay on the carpet with me for a few minutes while I hand out writing goals. This takes about 5 minutes tops because I am prepared. I am not teaching anything new… just reminding them of things they should remember in their writing. It might sound like this:
Matt: I am noticing you are doing a great job with your illustrations. Fantastic! I am wondering if you could work on using colors that make sense?
Caleb: I love you are writing sounds that you hear. I am wondering if you could try to write more than one sound for each word?
Get the picture? It is FAST. 5 minutes TOPs. Once I have handed out my goals, they go off to write and I confer with those who are scheduled to meet with me.
Now it is Wednesday
I will confer with Matt, Caleb, Suzi, and Lidia and look for EVIDENCE that they have attempted the goal I set for them the previous day. WOW! Talk about focus! If they did… fantastic! I might have them continue to work on that until I meet them again. If they did not, my conference is a perfect time to reteach this skill. Of course, I always have the opportunity to teach something else instead.
Inside the Conference
- Investigate, “What are you working on?”
- Notice and Name, “I am noticing you are…”
- Teach, “One of the things writers do…”
- Confirm, “So what do you think you might do?”
When you are conferring, remember that you are working on improving the WRITER… not necessarily the WRITING. This is not the time to correct their work. This is the time to select ONE skill that you think would elevate them as a writer. Now there might be 10 things barking at you, but you should limit your teaching point to one (or two things).
I can not tell you how important this is. My conferring notebook is simple. A spiral notebook with a tab for each student. I write their names on the tabs after the first few days of school. I use the 3M tabs and give each student 3-4 pages for the year.
If you need to, attach the writing continuum to the back of the notebook so you can refer to it.
What do I write?
Here is the deal… your notes are for YOU. They help YOU keep track of this particular writer. Don’t panic… write it down in a way that makes sense to you.
- I usually put the title or subject of their writing. Example: Park with brother
- If I set a goal for them, I put a “G.” Example: G: Colors that make sense
- If I taught them something, I put a “T.” Example: T: Add beg. and ending sounds
- Then I can add other noticings. Example: Needs more help with ideas (this will help me for future goal setting).
This is an actual photo of my board in action.
No, I don’t have 12 students. Some students are waiting in the wings. They are not meeting with me, handing in their notebooks, or conferring. To be clear… EVERYONE is writing EVERY DAY.
A little help please
These are included in our writing units. They will help you with your writing conference. You can see the units HERE.
Sharing is such an important part of writing. In kindergarten, THEY all want to share every day. However, if we did that whole group every day it would take forever. Instead, we have a focused share time. The students that I conferred with that day (4-5 students) share with the whole class. I do this because I can be on hand to support them and remind them of the new work they took on as a result of our conference. It makes the whole group share time focused and efficient.
THEN writing partners share with each other.
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You can grab a FREE copy of the writing continuum and the conference scheduler below.
You can see our Writing Through the Year: Complete Writing Curriculum by clicking HERE.